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Former Penguin Daniel Sprong returns to PPG Paints Arena with Ducks

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, 3:54 p.m.
Anaheim Ducks right wing Daniel Sprong controls the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. It was Sprong’s first game with the Ducks.
Anaheim Ducks right wing Daniel Sprong controls the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. It was Sprong’s first game with the Ducks.

For Daniel Sprong, the change in his career path has become a case of simple mathematics.

With the Penguins, he averaged 9 minutes, 40 seconds of ice time over parts of three seasons. This season, it fell to 8:34.

So, why wouldn’t he welcome the trade to the Anaheim Ducks where he is scoring goals (three in five games) and skating an average of 14:50 per game?

“If you ask any guy, if (your ice time is limited), you can’t really do much,” he said after the Ducks’ morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. The Ducks are in town to play the Penguins on Monday night.

“If you make one mistake, it’s kind of a bad game because you don’t have the opportunity to revenge that mistake,” said Sprong, 21. “It’s tough to get into a rhythm. Your legs start sinking, too.

“When you play a lot, it gives you confidence and you start believing in your own strengths and what you can bring to the table.”

The trade was finalized Dec. 3, with defenseman Marcus Pettersson going to the Penguins.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle put Sprong on his second line with center Adam Henrique. He responded with a goal in his Anaheim debut Dec. 5 against the Chicago Black Hawks and both goals in the Ducks’ 2-1 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Carlyle said it’s too early to make a definite determination about the merits of the trade, but he likes what he’s seen so far.

“It’s hard to get goal scorers in this league,” he said. “If you find people who can score goals, you’re lucky.

“I know in some of the situations, you’d like to see him stronger along the wall. Yet, if he’s quick enough in and out there, he’s good with the stick. You can look at any player on the ice and say they can always get better.”

Sprong, who was the Penguins’ second-round draft choice in 2015, said he has no bitter feelings toward the only NHL organization he’s known.

“Not at all,” he said. “I scored my first NHL goal here.”

Overall, he recorded four goals and five assists in 42 games with the Penguins.

Asked if the Penguins gave him a fair opportunity, he said he had no such thoughts in that regard.

“I don’t think that’s up to me to say,” he said. “I just play. It’s out of my control. Things happen all the time in the league. Not many guys can say they play with one team their whole career.

“It’s a new beginning, a new chapter, looking forward to the new challenges ahead.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said the trade appears to be one that will be beneficial to both teams.

Pettersson has recorded a plus-three rating in his first seven games with the Penguins.

“He is a really good, solid, two-way defenseman,” said Sullivan, who has paired Pettersson with Jack Johnson. “He has good mobility for someone who is as big as he is (6-foot-3, 161 pounds). He has a long reach. He makes a good first pass, he sees the ice pretty well.”

Johnson and Pettersson are both left-handed shooters, but the pairing has worked well so far.

“Part of it was trying to find someone (Johnson) who can play the right side, given all the left-handed shots that we have,” Sullivan said.

“Jack is pretty good down low. He’s good in the battle areas, he’s good in the net front. He’s a good solid defending defenseman. Our thought was that it would make sense to try the two of them and we’ve liked what we’ve seen.”

Sprong isn’t the only former Penguins player coming back to PPG Paints Arena. Carter Rowney, who won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2017, has found a home on the Ducks’ fourth line after signing a three-year deal in free agency.

“It’s already weird when you walk through the (PPG Paints) doors,” Rowney said before the game. “There are a lot of memories.

“I talked to a few guys. I’m sure they’ll be a little bit different on the ice. I think it will be weird chasing those guys around.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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